Neoconservatism is rooted in the old stomping ground of Democratic America, that is the east coast liberal havens of Boston and New York; it is mostly Jewish, non-Ivy League and utterly modernist; shaped by traditional liberal values. Its aim is to repair the damage done to American society by liberal overreach and provide, for the first time, an intellectual framework for a conservative agenda.
The Moral Majority used to be firmly in the camp of the Democrats, Christian Evangelicals were bedfellows of the donkey rather than the elephant (Carter won a large proportion of his votes from the Christian Right) but the constant leftward drift of the Democrats alienated them as much as it did the neocons and a formidable enemy was stirred into action, made even more formidable by the rise in Evangelical churches and a decline in the Presbyterian and Episcopal faiths. It has been an enemy that the Democrats have struggled with ever since.
Add to these two forces the loss of the South to the GOP and the Western Sun Belt becoming fervent Republican territory, all it needed was an individual to harness this mighty force into Executive power; that man was President Ronald Reagan.
The Gipper was a genuine outsider to the political machine and the first one to embody modern American conservatism, strange, considering that for most of his life he was a self-confessed “near haemophiliac liberal” who worshipped FDR and spent many years as a trade union boss. But with a loathing of big government, a desire to smite communism and a record of voting that pleased the religious right he, rather than Nixon, could pull the strands of conservative America together.
Reagan laid the platform for conservatism as the dominant force in US politics by winning the Cold War and establishing a hegemony, destroying organised labour and union bargaining rights, increasing military spending, aggressive tax cuts to boost the economy and changing the face of the Supreme Court to be more right-leaning.
Upon closer inspection his record in office had its weak spots, he didn’t cut public spending but managed to reduce taxes and left the US $1.5 trillion in debt (sound familiar George W?), policy was guided by the stars as much as the neocons and for all the lip service, Reagan was a secular man who cared little for Moral Majority issues like abortion. But, with the neocons and Religious Right on board, the South and West of the country sown up and a charismatic front man serving two terms all was looking good.
And then came Clinton…